An Edinburgh Uber driver boasted about charging a customer £58 for a journey between Queen Street and Mortonhall in a WhatsApp group chat.
The details emerged in a conversation between some of Edinburgh’s Uber drivers on New Year’s Day, when fares go up due to higher demand.
An Uber spokeswoman said that, when large numbers of people in a specific area want a ride at the same time and there aren't enough cars available, fares automatically go up to encourage drivers to go to this area. But this in turn can result in fares eventually going back down as supply and demand is balanced out.
However, in a discussion between Uber drivers in Edinburgh about fares on New Year's Day, one driver said: “My best so far 4.5x XL Queen st to Mortonhall I got £58.”
The next two messages in the group chat, read: “Happy new year to all” and “Hope everyone has had a productive night.”
A screenshot of the conversation was obtained and published by a female taxi driver who runs the local Facebook group Call a Cab a Taxi.
Alongside the message she wrote: “Regulated taxis sitting on ranks while people choose to stand beside them, wait for a car coming for them and happily let them charge them over twice the price the taxi would charge.
“£58 for a journey that’s about 15 minutes long.
“You can’t argue with stupid.”
Another message posted in the WhatsApp group read “Get to Musselburgh” alongside a laughing face emoji, over the prospect of picking up a fare at 4.9 times the flat rate for this journey.
Uber, which allows customers to hail a car using a phone app, arrived in Edinburgh in November 2015, with the company predicting a “huge demand” for the service.
It has led to a surge in the number of private hire cars in the city whose drivers, unlike black cab taxi drivers, do not need to take ‘the Knowledge’ test for the streets of Edinburgh. Instead, Satnav is used to take customers to their destinations.
Speaking to the Evening News, the taxi driver who runs the Facebook group stressed that black cabs have their fares regulated by the council and, although fares are higher on certain days on and around New Year (roughly a fare-and-a-half), the prices are nowhere near as high as those set by Uber.
She added: “I’m all for progress and healthy competition but you will find with drivers in the black cab trade that they see it as their city and want visitors to have a nice experience, not get ripped off.”
An Uber spokeswoman said: "The Uber app uses dynamic pricing to make sure that people can always get a car when they need it.
"When large numbers of people in a specific area want a ride at the same time and there aren't enough available cars, fares automatically rise to encourage more drivers to go to the busy area.
"Users always see a fare estimate in advance so they have the choice to book a car, share the trip with others or wait until fares go down.”
Uber customers are able to see an estimate for every trip and are notified if the fare is higher, which means a higher price should not come as a surprise.